F-35A Drops First Weapon

An Air Force F-35A completed the first in-flight weapons release for this variant of the strike fighter, announced prime contractor Lockheed Martin. AF-1, flown by Maj. Eric Schultz, on Oct. 16 released a 2,000-pound joint direct attack munition from its left internal weapons bay during a flight test over the China Lake range in southern California, states the company’s release. BF-3, a Marine Corps F-35B, actually was the first strike fighter to release a weapon in flight, when it successfully dropped an inert 1,000-pound bomb over the Atlantic Ocean in August. The F-35A has four internal weapon stations—two in each of its two weapons bays—and can utilize an additional three external weapon stations per wing, if not flying in stealth mode. It is designed to carry a payload up to 18,000 pounds, states the Oct. 17 release.